California officials agree to left restrictions on the retail sale of hemp products. Photo credit: LightFieldStudios.
After years of anticipation, November of 2016 became a historical month for thousands of weed enthusiasts across the Golden State. It’s the year that voters approved Proposition 64 or the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). In other words, cannabis became legal for recreational use. While this may have been a victory for many Californians, it still blurred the lines between cannabis and hemp.
The main difference between cannabis (which is commonly referred to as “marijuana”) and hemp is the THC content. Cannabis is high in THC (the psychoactive molecule responsible for highs); while officials legally define hemp as plants that contain .3% or less of THC.
Another difference between cannabis and hemp is its legality at the federal level. While cannabis remains a schedule I drug, hemp was made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill.
Hemp, also known as cannabaceae, is typically cultivated for industrial uses. It contains special fibers and seeds, which humans use for everything from building materials to food. To consumers interested in CBD, but concerned about the psychoactive properties of THC, hemp is an alternative.
However, despite this and hemp’s legality — officials in California banned retail sales of smokable hemp products. They did so by including a passage in the industrial hemp regulation bill, AB 45. In early September, thanks to efforts from advocates throughout the U.S., officials agreed to lift that ban.
What Exactly Kept Hemp Illegal?
According to the Organic CBD Nugs, Californians had several concerns with hemp legalization such as a lack of federal guidelines.
There are also some growing concerns from weed cultivators on how cross-pollination may affect their cannabis crops. According to an article from Hemp Today, veteran cannabis consultant Richard Rose says “California is the worst state in which to grow hemp. With thousands of medical grows, they don’t want hemp pollen floating around.”
For example, many California counties have temporarily banned hemp in an effort to prevent cross-pollination. However, in early 2021, officials in Humboldt County, Northern California moved to permanently ban outdoor hemp grows, reports Marijuana Business Daily.
Surprisingly, there is also little knowledge on how to properly grow hemp according to Jeff Cox, Bureau Chief of Medicinal Plants at the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
With a lack of expertise, proper hemp cultivation can cause low-quality results with costly losses. Due to the changing and current regulations around hemp, farmers fear THC levels above 0.3% which would require them to destroy their crops, according to Harvest Public Media.
The Recent Change on AB 45
But just this past week, California’s active ban on the retail sale of hemp-derived extracts may finally change.
As stated in AB-45, the ban had restricted “the sale of dietary supplements, food, beverages, cosmetics, or pet food that include industrial hemp or cannabinoids, extracts, or derivatives from industrial hemp-based solely on the inclusion of those substances.”
In response, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, “a coalition of dozens of leading companies and organizations committed to safe hemp and CBD products,” according to their website, has been working to make smokable hemp legal.
On September 1st, the organization announced that they struck a deal with Gov. Gavin Newsom.
A “highlight of this deal, the Roundtable stated, was “the removal of language to ban hemp smokables in the state – replaced by a phase-in approach that will permit their sale to adults and the immediate manufacture of smokable products to be sold in other states.”
So What’s the Foreseeable Future for Hemp in California?
In a press release by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, the organization said “the battle is not yet over. While the bill has sailed through six legislative committees and the Assembly floor with only a handful of no votes, we still will have a final vote on the Senate floor next Wednesday (September 8th), with one last vote on the Assembly floor next Thursday or Friday (September 9th and 10th).”
The organization also urges hemp supporters to visit the official site of the U.S Hemp Supporter Roundtable to help push state legislators to vote for the bill.
Nonetheless, there is still an open debate on how hemp cultivation may affect farmers growing across California. But one thing is for sure — the support for hemp shows a promising future as it continues to become more celebrated.
So hold tight hemp lovers! Californians may be moving a step closer to smokable and legal hemp usage by 2022.